Saturday 24 December 2011

Google+ Hangouts to Teach EFL

This is a Christmas gift for me and you - a guest post by Marina Salsbury who has already been my guest before.
Thank you Marina!

Google+ has formally been around for less than a year, but it's already turning into the online social network of choice for educators. For language teachers, especially those who teach English as a Foreign Language (EFL), Google+ can be used as a tool to augment learning and as a virtual classroom. As a learning subject, EFL demands a lot of teacher-student engagement and interaction, something that Google+ excels at. In higher learning environments such as masters or PhD programs, habitual conversation is one of the best ways to retain a language, so having an online avenue to converse will be highly beneficial for language learners.

Hangouts are essentially videoconferencing sessions on Google+ which can accommodate up to 10 people. Hangouts With Extras are enhanced online meetings that incorporate text chat, a sketchpad and other collaborative tools. Google has added many features to Hangouts, one of the most innovative being a smart video switching system, which automatically switches the onscreen camera view to the parties that are talking at the moment.

One-on-one EFL teaching or tutoring is the first function that comes to mind when considering Google+ hangouts for education. Skype has already been extensively used for this purpose for a few years. While Hangouts may be effective for traditional one-on-one EFL instruction, they truly shine for group sessions and have already being used by casual English conversation clubs.

When it comes to language instruction, EFL teachers tend to enjoy full attention from their students. This same level of concentration translates well to a Hangout session. In traditional classroom sessions, EFL students must listen and wait for their turn to verbalize the skills they have acquired. This allows students to learn from each other as well. EFL teachers should remind their students that on Hangout sessions they must wait for their peers to finish speaking; otherwise the video auto-switching feature will be enabled and become disruptive.

EFL study groups are already making Google+ their home, and thanks to the ability to integrate a video that's posted on YouTube, they are conducting Hangout sessions in which they watch, learn and discuss video material. English teachers are increasingly alerting their peers to the features that make Google+ a great educational tool, and others are discussing how the integration of Google Docs can augment EFL teaching.


Anonymous said...

Happy New Year, Baiba

Baiba said...

Many thanks, nameless well-wisher!

Tyson Seburn said...

This is a good function for Hangouts. I have yet to turn to online teaching, but think it might be lucrative and also fun. Its effectiveness remains to be seen.

Ann said...

Hi Baiba,

Have just posted a link to it on the TeachingEnglish facebook page if you'd like to check there for comments.

Please feel free to post on the page whenever you have anything you'd like to share.



Baiba said...

Ann, thanks a lot. This is actually written by Marina Salsbury and I am glad on her part for the post getting some publicity.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading your review and suggested uses for google hangouts. As an avid user of skype for videoconferencing over the last few years, I am limited by two video linkups, which prevents more than two classrooms connecting with video (unless I pay for the pro version). However, when skype is flaky and the video drops out, we have tried video in google chat and that is always stable. Therefore google hangouts might be a better solution. Thanks for sharing.

Roy said...

I have used Google Hangouts for both group classes and personal use with friends and family. I think it's really good as it removes the limitations on Skype. There are also add-ons which increase functionality. The quality of the video is also better than Skype. Integrating video classes with Google docs, sites and chat allows for a full range of activities to be carried out with your students.

Baiba said...

Roy, thanks for sharing your experience, which is especially valuable because it lets me see why Google Hangouts are better than Skype.